Mr. Pumpkin Adventure (Wii U): COMPLETED!

As this was very cheap in a sale before Christmas, and looked very much like Machinarium would do if drawn by the Links Der Isar chaps.

It’s a point and click puzzle adventure game, with some abstract puzzles, some obvious puzzles, and some multi-part what the hell am I supposed to do here puzzles. Mr. Pumpkin Adventure follows Mr. Pumpkin as he wakes up with amnesia, and has to figure out who he is and why he can’t remember anything. The outcome is very much The Matrix, almost literally, and there are sci-fi references all over the place on the way.

mr. pumpkin adventure

And a giant octopus that wants a Wario hat. Erm.

Look, I’m not doing a very good job of explaining the game because there’s no decent way of doing so. I’ll say this instead: if you liked Machinarium or other, similar games, you’ll love this. It took two or three hours to complete, and was definitely worth the quid or so it cost me.

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Ultratron (Wii U): COMPLETED

A couple of years back, I played and completed a game called Titan Attacks! on the Vita. At first it looked like a crap Space Invaders clone, but by the end I found I’d really enjoyed it.

ultratron

Ultratron, by the same people and seemingly set in the same universe, does for Robotron what Titan Attacks! did for Space Invaders. A neon, chunky twin-stick shooter with purchasable power-ups and upgrades, bosses, and particles everywhere.

And, just like before, what seemed like a poor copy of an arcade game from 30+ years ago turned out to be a lot of fun. It’s a bit mindless, and the amount of pixels flying around in the form of explosions, pickups and bullets can make it a little hard to see some of the time, but I happily completed it and then carried on playing some more.

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Ultratron (Wii U): COMPLETED

A couple of years back, I played and completed a game called Titan Attacks! on the Vita. At first it looked like a crap Space Invaders clone, but by the end I found I’d really enjoyed it.

ultratron

Ultratron, by the same people and seemingly set in the same universe, does for Robotron what Titan Attacks! did for Space Invaders. A neon, chunky twin-stick shooter with purchasable power-ups and upgrades, bosses, and particles everywhere.

And, just like before, what seemed like a poor copy of an arcade game from 30+ years ago turned out to be a lot of fun. It’s a bit mindless, and the amount of pixels flying around in the form of explosions, pickups and bullets can make it a little hard to see some of the time, but I happily completed it and then carried on playing some more.

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Assassin’s Creed III: an expanding map

Now, this is the Assassin's Creed I recognise.  A map filling with icons to distract me from the main quest, a feeling of being overwhelmed and not understanding half the gameplay mechanics.  It looks as if I can build up my homestead with people sympathetic to my cause; there are pages of books flying around and random feathers; there are viewpoints and animal pawprint missions (?) and message delivery missions and and and.


It was so much easier when I was an eagle.


So, as always, I've started off by ignoring the story and trying to scale all the viewpoints in order to unlock the map.  What is quite interesting, though, is that I have a much lower drive to get the rest of the side missions completed when I don't have the achievements or trophies to chase.  I'm happy to see the pages disappear into the distance, not chasing them like those awful dynamic orbs in Crackdown 2.  I'm far more likely to head for the exclamation mark to continue the story.  This is shaking off years of videogame training, where sidequests may have been optional but they always made progression easier; in Assassin's Creed the benefits you get are marginal at best.

But it's still a bit overwhelming.

Assassin’s Creed III: an unexpected twist

Hang on, he was a Templar?

OK, the clues were there: generally unlikable; cold and calculating; trying to find things rather than prevent them.  The characterisation was painfully thin, once the twist was revealed. But it's made me quite unhappy that I have aided the wrong side for three chapters of the game.

And then his friend did this.


Playing as a kid for a chapter seemed odd, particularly because it seemed so insignificant. I suppose the idea was to set off the carefree nature of childhood against the pain of loss, but it just felt a bit stilted. Still, at least I know who I'm playing as now, and it looks like the rest of the game is going to have some spectacular scenery.


Assassin’s Creed III: an unlikable toff

Progressing with the series, a change of time period, a change of location, and a change of console.  I'm not sure if the latter is a good idea or not, because the combat controls have changed a lot from previous games, and I'm not sure if this is a change due to moving away from the Xbox 360, or if all versions have the same changes.  I assume it's the latter, and that means the change is a good one since I now how a larger map available to me (although not separately zoomable, which is annoying).

I seem to remember Assassin's Creed Revelations ended with Desmond being trapped in the Animus, but here he is, walking around with his friends, going to the pub and the greyhound races, having a picnic in the local park, watching the X-Factor and eating crisps.  Well, he's in the real world anyway.  There was a very brief explanation of him getting out, but it felt pretty tacked on.


Oh, and his dad was there as well.  I don't remember his dad from before.  Have I missed something?

Anyway, the big glowy ball of wonder opened a door, and the animus was set up inside a big cave system with no obvious food supply.  The target avatar this time was Haytham Kenway, a British man sent over to the US at the time of colonisation.  The first mission, however, was set in the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden (or, rather, the Theatre Royal as it was then known).  I was tempted to watch the play, but I suspect it would have repeated quite quickly.


I quite liked the effects of the world being built around you as you walked through the courtyard.

After assassinating in the theatre, I was sent to the US, and several missions aboard a boat.  It was only on arrival in America that the title screen appeared, over an hour into the game.


I don't like Haytham.  He is a calculating, mean, simplistic idiot who has no morality or ethics.  I didn't want to do half of the stuff he was meant to, particularly because it was largely directed against British soldiers who were innocent of malicious schemes.  That wasn't the only reason I struggled though; as mentioned above the controls have changed significantly, with aiming and combat 'simplified'.  There is no longer the need to lock on in hand-to-and combat, but this means you lose some control of where to direct your attacks.  Shooting is also much more difficult.


Assassin's Creed games were never about the shooting, though, so I wasn't too worried about that.  Except I should have been, because a few missions have almost depended on it.  Sigh.

Anyway, the changes don't stop at the controls.  Yes, there are still viewpoints ...


... and collectables such as note pages, but there is a distinct lack of the empire building from previous games.  No shops to buy, no assassin network to command - or even assassins to call on during missions, except in very restricted ways.  In a way this is good, since my main complaint about Revelations was that there was too much to do.  It may be that the game expands a bit, since previous entries introduced them gradually, but I'm now four hours in and it's still very linear.

It's lovely to look at though, certainly more so than Revelations, and there are some very nice graphical effects around the world.  I am currently hiking around the countryside in the snow trying to find out about the movements of someone called Braddock, and there's a real sense of inertia to movement.  As you walk, you dig furrows in the snow.  Unfortunately not everything is modelled with accurate physics, meaning that if you kill an animal (such as one of the wolves which are constantly attacking you) and then walk around its corpse, you can make it levitate.


Hopefully I will adapt to the controls soon.  The Wii U controller is great for the game though, and I like the larger map, especially for planning movements through lots of guards.

Year Walk (Wii U): COMPLETED!

It seemed appropriate to play Year Walk, given it is nearly Halloween, and the fact it was very cheap on the eShop helped too.

Year Walk is a graphical adventure game, where you play as a man taking part in the dubious Swedish ritual of Årsgång, a sort of spiritual journey where the participant can supposedly learn about their future. It involves exploring a small map, making note of various shapes and markings, and solving a few simple puzzles.

Oh, and it’s scary. And bizarre. I can’t go too much into it as that’ll spoil the surprises, story and jump-scares the game has to offer, but several events are more than a little disturbing.

year walk
What key is scary? A Spoo-key.

Things get even more disturbing after the game has been completed, with secret extras that blur the line between the game and reality. Probably best you don’t play it just before going to bed. Like I did.

I can’t say it was fun, but it was certainly very interesting. And worrying.

what_s_in_the_box

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Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE (Wii U): COMPLETED!

Oh yes. Now this is a damn fine game. I’ve always liked JRPGs although it’s few that I finish mainly due to their overwhelming length, or in some cases, complexity or difficulty. I thoroughly enjoyed Persona 4 Golden for the 10 or 15 hours I put into it, but something about the complicated Persona system confused me enough to cause me to back away. Having completed Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE, I’m dying to get it back in.

Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE

Why would Tokyo Mirage make me want to get back to Persona? Because Tokyo Mirage is Persona, only with a light Fire Emblem theme and a more streamlined, easier to understand, weapon and skill system. It’s My First Persona, and that is absolutely in no way putting it down – it’s a way into the world of Persona and is more than awesome enough in its own right too.

I loved the setting, the quirky Japaneseness, the characters and the real world (almost) locations. The acting and singing as a form of “training” for battle and unlocking abilities is crazy but works, with performances of some great JPop tracks. I became obsessed with the Carnage weapons and their upgrade system, unlocking skills and powers as you go. I don’t recall playing a game where as well as levelling up your characters, you can also level up your powers and your weapons, and even your capabilities as a performer allowing even more skills and abilities.

Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE

Dungeons don’t feel like dungeons, even though they plainly are, and each isn’t just differently themed, they have their own puzzle mechanic – from finding the correct order of buttons to press, to running errands, to essentially a variant on a slide puzzle. It might have just six or so of these Idolaspheres, once for each chapter, but they’re large and full of surprises, especially when you return to them later and access different areas.

There’s a well paced difficulty curve, but if you find things difficult and decide to push that JRPG staple of grinding, the game helps out by providing not only a specific area – the arena – full of enemies, but also two skills or items you can use to summon random encounters at a higher rate, or even higher level enemies more frequently.

As for my playthrough, I spent 70 excellent hours working my way to the final boss, and another five failing, levelling and then defeating him. Seventy five hours of glorious combat, funny dialogue and twisted Tokyo. Quite possibly my game of the year so far.

Click to view slideshow.

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Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE (Wii U)

Oh is this proper good. Properly proper good. It’s a very Persona-like JRPG (in fact, it’s a spin off from the same series Persona is, so that’s not surprising), and I’m really enjoying it.

I did get a bit hooked on Persona 4 Golden on the Vita a while back, but I never finished it, or even got that far into the game. Two reasons probably contributed to that – it was on the Vita, and I’d got to a bit where Personas could be merged or something and it all got a bit confusing and complicated. Also with Persona 4 there was always the slight worry I’d not finish the game, or at least complete all the side missions and stories, before the in-game year was up. Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE (the #FE is important, and is “sharp eff ee”, not “hash eff ee”, apparently) fixes all these issues.

Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE

At it’s core, it’s the same. You wander round some small areas, talk to people, buy stuff, and so on. Then you do dungeons, which in Persona 4 are accessed by entering the TV, but in Tokyo Mirage Sessions you go through gates that appear in various locations. Inside each of these gates is an Idolasphere, a corrupted realm inhabited by Mirages. Most of them are evil, some are not. So far, so the same as Persona.

Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE

However, whereas the Persona system of, erm, Personas (which provide skills and stuff) is a bit complicated, the Performas in this are much simplified. Things you do in the game, items you collect, and foes you defeat provide things you combine with Performas to give you permanent buffs (like higher HP, or ability to withstand one normally fatal hit per battle) called Radiant Unities. Weapons are forged in a similar way, and are called Carnage Unities, and using weapons in battle unlocks new moves and skills. It’s more straightforward than my description suggests, I’m sure.

You_ain_t_anywhere_near_metal_enough

So where does the #FE come in, you may ask. The sharp presumably references the musical element of the game – your characters (or some of them, anyway) aspire to be Japanese idols. You know, models, singers, that sort of thing, and singing is actually a power in this game. The FE references Fire Emblem, as characters from that game series appear in Tokyo Mirage Sessions as good Mirages that team up with your characters to allow them to have these ridiculous skills and abilities. I think originally there was to be more to the Fire Emblem link than that, but so far that’s as far as it goes.

As I’ve already said, the game itself is so, so good. There’s a great sense of progression as your team and powers level up, and the separate idolaspheres have so far been totally different to each other, and are more than just labyrinthine dungeons: They have puzzles, one way routes, secrets and even their own subquests. It’s a joy to play, and I’m currently 21 or so hours in, and have just been beaten for the first time (and surely not the last time) by the boss at the end of chapter 3.

Click to view slideshow.

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Things I’ve been playing recently

I’ve not done a roundup post for a while, but I have been playing quite a lot of stuff. Regardez:

BattlefieldBattlefield 4 (PS4)

I’m not a fan of shootmans, but I am a fan of bargains, so Battlefield 4 and Battlefield Hardline together for around a fiver was a steal. Then I did an odd thing: I actually played Battlefield 4. Not only that, but I think I’m quite near the end. It’s been quite good actually, although at this point I’m finding it a little bit repetitive – enter area, snipe everyone, move on. Naturally I could mix up my play style and use some different guns but when I tried that it didn’t go well. Tanks and boats and stuff did add some variety at least. Online? No.

HYRULE WARRIORSHYRULE WARRIORS LEGENDS (3DS)

Which is still amazing. There’s more DLC this week, but in the meantime I’m nowhere near finished. I have beaten the boss on the first Adventure Map (unlocking a second) and unlocked most of the characters. It’s just so much fun – I don’t think I’ll ever tire of it.

Unravel Demo (PS4)

I’ve actually bought the full game as a result of being impressed with the demo. That and 1) it was on offer, and 2) my daughter was quite adamant I had to. She’s played the full game but I’ve only done the demo. It feels a lot like Limbo so far, albeit brighter and cuter.

Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FETokyo Mirage Sessions #FE (Wii U)

Ever since seeing this when it was announced I’ve been interested. I wasn’t entirely sure why, as I had no idea how the game mechanics would even work – some sort of cross between Akiba’s Trip, Idolmaster and Fire Emblem? Maybe? Who knows. It didn’t matter. Turns out, having bought it on release, it’s Persona. And it’s very most excellent, even if I’m only a few hours in so far. I really should get back into Persona 4 Golden, actually. Stupid Vita.

Table Top RacingTable Top Racing World Tour (PS4)

This was a free rental on PS+, and it’s not very good. Somehow, though, I’ve been playing it off and on and I’m just over halfway through the game. It makes me pine for Micro Machines and how much better that is than this, which is slow and has boring (and very few) tracks.

Assassin's Creed UnityAssassin’s Creed Unity (PS4)

I’m still playing it! I completed it not so long ago, but I’m still having fun doing side quests and mopping up all the collectables. Been a few Assassin’s Creed games since I last did that, so it’s obviously pushing the right buttons.

ShantaeShantae and the Pirate’s Curse (3DS)

So many boobladies. In eyepopping 3D! But as well as that, Shantae is a fantastic platformer with metroidvania elements. I’d enjoyed the original GBC game on the 3DS Virtual Console so when it was available as part of that frankly ludicrous Nintendo Humble Bundle I was very pleased indeed. I’m quite a way through it too, having been unable to put it down for a whole weekend, and I’ve just one main area left to clear, I think.

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